Geraldine Ferraro, Who Made History, May Return to Politics

'GO to college, Gerry, or you'll starve to death.'' Geraldine Ferraro's immigrant mother, a seamstress, once gave her that advice after watching young Gerry fumble with a needle and thread.

In fact, Ms. Ferraro went a lot further. She made history in 1984 as the first woman vice presidential candidate from a major party. But Ronald Reagan made history that year, too: He buried Walter Mondale and Ferraro in the biggest-ever US election landslide.

In 1992, she ran for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate. She hoped to challenge New York Republican Alphonse D'Amato. But she lost a three-way race amid innuendoes about possible family connections to the Mafia.

Today she's ratcheting up her public appearances - including taking over as co-host on CNN's ''Crossfire'' - with an eye toward running for New York mayor or governor.

''It's an alluring idea,'' she said recently.

''She's equipped to do it,'' says former New York Mayor Ed Koch of either race. But Ferraro publicly detests the idea of another mudslinging fest. And current Mayor Rudy Guiliani ''would undoubtedly stoop to new lows,'' Mr. Koch says.

Ferraro would do better in a bid for governor, where she would be the ''personified counterpoint to [George] Pataki,'' says Jay Severen, a conservative observer. Now, he says, this woman who's used to making history has to decide if she's up for making ''one last run.''

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